Since giving up social media last week, I have gotten bit by the reading bug again. Although only on my second book of the summer, I plan on growing that number rapidly, as my to-read list is also expanding exponentially.
As you can tell by the title, I thought it would be fun to talk about my favorite book series! I tend to be pretty selective about what books I want to read, especially if they’re a series. Usually I don’t chance getting into a series unless I’m pretty positive I’ll love it, so I honestly can’t think of any series I’ve read that I haven’t loved. I’m more drawn to reading standalone books.
Most of these are well-known, so instead of giving full run-downs of the books, I’m going to briefly describe them and then explain why they have meant so much to me.
1. (You guessed it) Harry Potter – 7 books
Out of all pieces of entertainment, Harry Potter has impacted my life the most. My first venture into Harry’s wizarding world was at the age of 5, when I tried to pick up and read Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone, the book I had seen in all of my siblings’ hands. Although my first journey through the book lasted only a few pages, I remember being excited by the prospect of multiple books being about the same people–it was my earliest memory of encountering a book series.
Harry’s adventures have followed me over the vast majority of my life, with numerous rereads along the way (my friend and I are currently reading them aloud together, and trying to finish them before graduation). Although a common answer, Rowling has been one of my favorite authors, because she taught me the true depth of imagination and has continued to show me through Harry that despite deep grief and worldly trials, love will always come out on the winning side.
Through the ginormous phenomenon, Rowling showcased how essential children are to the literary world and how no one is too old to delve into the depths of their brain’s creativity. Childlike wonder is a valuable trait the world needs.
2. The Hunger Games – 3 books
To me, this trilogy was one of the most unique and intriguing concepts I had ever heard of. When I first started the book, I had no idea what to expect, and was surprised and entranced by the gripping tale of a young woman thrust into a twisted national game show where she must fight other children to the death to win.
It’s no secret that I love dystopic books, and The Hunger Games series tops the ones I’ve read. The combination of politics and game shows seemed so fresh to me, and I loved the concept of a fictional world that was also plausible, by exaggerating aspects of our society. I think dystopian books can be an intriguing look into what others find as downfalls of our society, like political deceit and greed in the case of Suzanne Collins’ popular trilogy.
I think what both draws readers into dystopia and what pushes readers away from dystopia is the fact that in the midst of far-fetched tales of puzzles and violence, we can see some great and disheartening seeds of truth about the evil in our world. But that’s all the reason we root for the protagonists–because as bleak and violent as it gets, they persevere and keep fighting for what they believe is right, even if it means overthrowing a government system.
3. Percy Jackson – 5 books
Rick Riordan’s series both introduced and hooked me into Greek mythology. In middle school, pretty much everyone I knew read these books. What makes them so great is that they center upon relatable and sassy characters that attend a camp–a tangible, warming concept to most children. Riordan then pairs these unique and fun heroes with Greek stories in a fun, understandable way that also educates his audiences. I think that’s a really great example of effectively drawing children to literature and education. Personally, I haven’t read many other Greek-related works except Riordan’s, which makes his tales memorable and unique for me.
4. A Series of Unfortunate Events – 13 books
This series was another childhood, elementary-age staple. I’m also starting to realize there’s a theme in these series… education masked by imagination. Although Lemony Snicket’s writing style is quirky and much less discreet; oftentimes in his narratives he makes asides to define words for the reader within the story’s context. Some people found the writing style odd and awkward, but I thought it only enhanced the story’s voice and made readers feel closer to the lives of the three Baudelaire orphans.
I remember having to wait for a couple of these books to publish and then trying to read them as fast as I could. One friend in third grade and I read The Penultimate Peril at the same time, making it a competition to see who could read it faster. But I also know my favorite part of these books, both as a child and now, is the theme of age vs. intelligence.
For those of you who don’t know, the books center on three children who’ve lost their parents and are transferred to live with a guardian named Count Olaf, who ends up being an evil man that will do whatever it takes to get his hands on their parents’ fortune. Eventually, the adults believe that he’s evil and transfer them to another guardian, but Count Olaf continues to follow them in different disguises. The children try to convince the adults in their lives that Count Olaf is following them, but time and time again, the adults never believe them until it’s too late and he’s escaped.
Too often, adults look down on children or think they know better than others simply because of age, and I think that can cause a lot of blindness among individuals. Yet children are wiser and more valuable than we give them credit for, in mindset, attitudes, and opinions.
5. Divergent – 3 books
This is another dystopian series and one of the most controversial series out of my favorites, mostly because many people hate the ending of the last book. However, I really enjoyed this series and Allegiant was the first book I ever read that made me sob for a good five minutes. Again, the themes or plot choices in the books I like that many others tend to dislike are usually based on reality or truths we don’t like to think about. In this case, not everything is tied up in a nice bow, and that’s life really.
This is another dystopian concept I found intriguing, plus it kind of takes an idea from Harry Potter that is really interesting to me: there are different, distinctive groups/types of people. In this series, people are sorted into different factions when they turn 16, that open up certain types of societal roles for them. There is Amity (the kind), Dauntless (the brave), Erudite (the intelligent), Abnegation (the selfless), and Candor (the honest). But there are also the factionless, who either failed intiation tests into the different factions or refused to join theirs, and divergents, who can fit into multiple factions and are dangers to the society. As you can imagine, the story centers upon a girl, Tris, who is divergent and trying to hide that fact from the government.
6. A Great and Terrible Beauty – 3 books
I adored this trilogy in every way possible; it combines everything from fantasy to romance to adventure. I made quick work of these in high school. My favorite aspect of them is that it takes something very current and enjoyable, a fantasy world, and juxtaposes that in the midst of nineteenth century Britain. Mainly, I tend to enjoy a combination of two very different things in books, and I think that’s a great way for writers to come up with original ideas, especially in fantasy. It also had some hints of Indian culture, which has always been a subject of fascination for me. Definitely the least heard of series in my list, but I would recommend it to anyone who loves a dramatic fantasy adventure.
7. The Maze Runner – 3 books
I’m in the midst of the third book now (book #2 of the summer), but I already love this series. Many people dislike it for its graphic imagery, and while I tend to be a bit squirmy with violence, James Dashner’s writing really pulls me into his dystopian world. He has one of the most vivid writing styles I have ever read, and while it’s not the most complex writing, it really allows you to empathize with the protagonist, his emotions, and all of the difficult situations he has to undergo.
This series follows a boy named Thomas, who shows up in this place called the Glade, without any memories of his past, not even his name. He and the other boys living there are stuck with no escape, surrounded by an ever-shifting maze with scary creatures that come out at nighttime. Eventually Thomas is invited to take on the most prestigious role in their little Lord of the Flies-like society: Maze Runner. His job is to help find an escape to the maze, all while getting back before sundown, when the maze doors close and offer certain death. Each book has been incredibly different, so it’s really hard to predict how the series is going to end, but I’m excited (and a little scared) to find out.
8. A Future Trilogy That Shall Not Be Named
Okay, I couldn’t resist. I’ve had a trilogy on the brain for a couple years now. It was one of those lightning-struck, I-don’t-know-where-this-came-from ideas, but I have been really excited ever since the idea landed in my head. My hesitations and reservations that prevented me from getting down to business are now quashed, as I’ve taken a novel class that has presented me with the technical plan I need to tangibly reach my goals that were only abstract before. All of the aforementioned series, with their wonderful characters, are definitely huge inspirations to my own writing. But before I can get to that trilogy…
July is Camp NaNoWriMo, which is a regular part of novelist vocab, but sounds like a weird disease to other people. Essentially, November is the original NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), but July is a laidback camp variation. Normally in November, writers around the world attempt to pen 50,000 word novels in one month. But in July, writers are encouraged to work on any writing project (novels, poems, scripts, etc.) and set any kind of goal they wish (e.g. word count, page count). Writers create online “cabins” with friends or strangers, and track one another’s goal progress as a team. Community and accountability are great ways to stay motivated as a writer (and in life in general).
I’m dying to write my trilogy, but I have a standalone I need to complete first, as I’ve decided I want it to be the first glimpse readers have of my work (even though it’s completely different). Now that I already have a rough draft, my goal this July is to spend 100 hours working on revisions, which will include rewriting, revising, and researching different aspects of my story. I’m not going to lie, my characters are bursting to talk again.
So if you need me, I will be camping out at my computer, with a notebook, or with a novel in hand all month, soaking in all of the outside perspective on my story and my writing style as I can, while trying to craft a more vivid, engaging story for my future readers. When I get exhausted I just tell myself–this is for all of the petite women out there who don’t have a voice yet. Not for long.